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Leeds United wait goes on for Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino must wait a little longer before learning whether his appeal against the Football League board’s decision to block his £25m takeover of Leeds United has been successful.
The League disqualified Cellino, 57, from becoming owner or a director of the club last week following his recent conviction in a Sardinia court for tax evasion.
Cellino’s legal representatives in London, Mishcon de Reya, lodged a formal appeal last Thursday on the grounds that the Italian businessman has appealed against that conviction and remains innocent in Italian law until the appeals process is completed.
The League claim Cellino’s conviction bars him from taking control at Elland Road under its owners’ and directors’ test.
An independent QC heard both sides of the argument in London today but requires more time to consider the case further.
A brief Football League statement read: “Massimo Cellino’s appeal under The Football League’s owners’ and directors’ test has now concluded, with the Independent QC reserving his judgment.”
The independent QC’s ruling could have serious ramifications for Leeds, who were unable to pay the players’ wages in full on Friday.
Manager Brian McDermott, his back-room staff and players agreed to defer 50 per cent of their March salary until after the appeal had been heard.
Current owner Gulf Finance House Capital and Cellino are in dispute over who is responsible for the players’ wages.
Bahrain-based investment firm GFH Capital claim Cellino is responsible for funding the club’s running costs under the terms of the deal to sell him 75 per cent of the club’s shares.
Contracts between GFH Capital and Cellino’s company, Eleonora Sport, were exchanged on February 7, while the Italian is understood to have already invested around £10m in the club.
But Cellino refused to make further funds available last week following the League’s refusal to allow his takeover, and fans now fear the club are heading towards administration.
Earlier today, McDermott refused to be drawn on comments made by Cellino in an inflammatory interview broadcast on an internet radio station.
Cellino was highly critical of McDermott and GFH Capital, but was unaware his conversation last night was being recorded after taking a cold call from a Leeds fan hosting White Leeds Radio.
McDermott, speaking at a press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s home game against Charlton, said he had listened to the interview.
“If you have a private conversation, it’s private and shouldn’t have gone out, full stop,” McDermott said.
“It was private. What we need is a togetherness here and we’ll get a togetherness.
“If he gets the club, he’ll have a decision to make on where we go forward.”
Cellino tried unsuccessfully to sack McDermott on the eve of Leeds’ 5-1 home win against Huddersfield Town on February 1 after the Cagliari owner had reached a verbal agreement with GFH Capital to buy 75 per cent of the club’s shares.
McDermott stayed away from the game but reported for work as normal the following Monday after GFH Capital released a statement confirming he had not been sacked and would continue as manager.
McDermott, 52, has repeatedly stated he will not walk away from the club and would be willing to work with Cellino if his takeover was successful.
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